Student Goal Orientation, Motivation, and Learning (page 3)

By — The Idea Center
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

Achieving Nirvana

I don’t really think you can achieve nirvana when it comes to student motivation, at least not for everyone. So perhaps the most important step is coming to grips with the reality and accepting that you’ve done your best to encourage a mastery orientation in the majority of your students. To do so:

1. Choose knowledge and skills that are worth learning;

2. Pitch the tasks you set for your students just beyond their base capability but well within their reach and expect them to succeed;

3. Make the classroom a safe place to take the risks involved in learning by the way you treat students’ attempts to learn;

4. Encourage the building of a community of learners in your class, where everyone supports everyone else’s attempt to learn;

5. If possible, give the learners some choices in what or the way they learn;

6. Be a good model of a mastery-oriented learner in all you do yourself;

7. Accept the fact that yours is not the only or even the most important venue in which your students function.


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Johnson, D., & Johnson, R. (1985). Motivational processes in cooperative, competitive and individualistic learning situations. In C. Ames and R. Ames (Eds.), Research on motivation in education (Vol. 2) (pp. 249-286). New York: Academic Press.

Meece, J., Blumenfeld, P., & Hoyle, R. (1988). Students’ goal orientation and cognitive engagement in classroom activities. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 514-523.

Middleton, M., & Midgley, C. (1997). Avoiding the demonstration of lack of ability: An under-explored aspect of goal theory. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 710-718.

Pintrich, P., & Schunk, D. (2002). Motivation in education: Theory, research, and applications. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice-Hall.

Marilla Svinicki did her undergraduate and masters work at Western Michigan University and her Ph.D. at the University of Colorado at Boulder. After teaching at Macalester College in St. Paul, she moved to Texas to become part of the founding staff of the University of Texas at Austin Center for Teaching Effectiveness. In 2004 she retired from CTE to become a full time faculty member in Educational Psychology. She is editor in chief of New Directions for Teaching and Learning, a leading source of ideas for teaching in higher education and has written and lectured nationally and internationally about the application of psychological research to teaching practice. Her latest book is Learning and Motivation in the Postsecondary Classroom, available from Anker Publishing (

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